09/20 Arlinton Advocate: Role player

Role player
By Shauna Staveley
Thu Sep 20, 2007, 12:03 PM EDT

Arlington, Mass. - There hasn’t been an official No Place for Hate committee since Aug. 20, when the steering committee decided to suspend its involvement with the Anti-Defamation League.

But hate takes no holiday and in the wake of several incidents, the No Place for Hate steering committee held a meeting with the Human Rights Commission and other community groups, trying to map a future for the organization.

“People felt strongly they wanted to continue,” chairwoman Cindy Friedman said. “People really liked idea that we were this umbrella group … Part of this spurred on that we know this kind of stuff exists in Arlington. There is a real commitment on part of the committee…we didn’t decide to keep going just because of what had happened.”

Joe Curro, chairman of the Arlington Human Rights Commission, outlined a series of incidents in a column published Sept. 13:

“The defacing of an elementary school playground with swastikas, calls for racially-motivated violence, and demands to ‘ship those niggers back,’ racist death threats posted on the bulletin board of a public park, swastikas painted along the Minuteman Bikeway, violent altercations attended by aggressive racial insults, anti-gay taunting shouted between neighbors, (and) graffiti in a school restroom targeting specific individuals on the basis of their race.”

School Superintendent Nate Levenson was also a target, receiving a phone call laced with anti-Semitism.

The vandalism and phones calls are being investigated by Arlington police.

According to Friedman, the No Place for Hate program can continue in Arlington if the Anti-Defamation league, which sponsors the program, “truly acknowledges” the massacre of more than 1 million Armenians from 1915-1918 as genocide, and supports House Resolution 106 currently in Congress.

“I think we would go back to the program,” she said.
Resolution 106, introduced on Jan. 30, 2007, states it is "Calling upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide, and for other purposes."

Even if the program remains suspended, the values espoused by the No Place for Hate Committee won’t vanish.

“One of the things we’re doing is to look at what other programs around other communities do,” Friedman said. “People like the structure of No Place For Hate grants and the connection with other communities. First we’ll see if the ADL will move on their stance on the agenda site so we could come back…if not, we’ll figure out what else is out there that we could align ourselves with so we can get that support and structure. No Place For Hate is still a great program, so that’s what we’re going to go off and do within the next month, amongst other things.”

Curro believes rapid change is driving the recent surge in hate-related graffiti.

“Frankly, what might be going on is Arlington is changing very quickly demographically,” Curro said. “We’ve had an influx of people from all over the world who have chosen to live in our town. We have so much to attract people that I think maybe sometimes folks see so much influx of newcomers, some people might feel threatened and might try to mistakenly respond to this anxiety in this way…It’s a complex situation because I think we are a very welcoming community but by the same token we shouldn’t fool ourselves and think that we have no problems in this area.”

Curro said community events that are both informational and fun could be considered more “accessible” to groups that may not have attended a meeting about the community’s diversity before. He specifically mentioned families, as they typically have not attended Human Resource Committee dialogues or the Vision 20/20 Diversity Task group events in the past, but such a combination might be appealing to them.

There are other ways Curro said Arlington has worked and will continue to work on embracing differences.

“Arlington High School does a big push in the area of diversity. They do a big day where they bring in members of the community to run workshops together with the kids. And I think that’s a very effective way…The Human Right Commission itself is organizing a diversity training session for some of our town and schools staff and elected appointed officials, to map out a strategy for serving all corners of the community better.”

Curro also mentioned that there was “some talk” and “a lot of energy” around bringing a potential multicultural festival or event during the spring.

With all of the possible efforts to increase the respect of diversity, it seems that NPFH’s structure was still considered crucial to the efforts of the Arlington community.

“There were a lot of large informational sessions throughout this past spring where a lot of communities came together and shared ideas. (We’d) hate to have that energy derailed on Anti-Defamation League issue,” Curro said.

Source: http://www.wickedlocal.com/arlington/homepage/x2033923159